Ari Meisel, The Art of Less Doing
Never Overwhelmed: the Story of Productivity Expert Ari Meisel
Well before sunrise each day, Ari Meisel wakes up.
The 30-year-old serial entrepreneur, husband, and father rises at 4:30 each morning to get started on the day’s work. Along with business and blogging, he helps to take care of his three young children.
Ari has a lot to juggle. But that doesn’t faze him – after starting a series of successful businesses and even battling Crohn’s disease, he holds a perspective of relentless optimism and a drive to help others. In an interview, Foundr publisher Nathan Chan asked him, “Do you ever feel overwhelmed?”
“No,” Ari replied. “No, I never feel overwhelmed – ever.”
Balancing his personal and professional lives, Ari is a productivity expert and writes on the subject at his blog, The Art of Less Doing.
“The Art of Less Doing was born of this desire to help people free up as much time as they could possibly free up in order to reclaim their own minds and do the things that they want to do,” Ari says. “So I basically have been helping people optimize, automate, and outsource everything in their lives.”
Ari has a deep understanding of how to put those words into action. Entrepreneurial ambition and medical challenges have fed his knowledge and led him to develop practical productivity strategies for overcoming the obstacles that stand in his way – as well as those that block others.
At age 12, Ari embraced the burgeoning digital frontier and began his first company, a business focused on website design.
Not content with a single enterprise, he launched two more companies once he reached high school. Menus to Go came when he was 16 years old. The following year, he started a technology installation business, setting up home theatres, computer systems, and the like for those who were willing to pay. Running three businesses and attending school gave Ari an early introduction to the need for good time management.
Once in college he allowed those early entrepreneurial forays to fade, and instead entered real estate development. In one pivotal project, he aimed to renovate a group of aging buildings in upstate New York and build new, modern lofts.
It proved to be an intense effort. To better grasp what he was engaged in, Ari learned the construction trade even as he continued to manage the project. Bringing the loft idea to life forced him to contend with a litany of issues including paperwork, construction, local politics, and more – all of which strained his time, pushed him to the limit, and taught him hardcore time management skills.
Seven years ago, things took a turn for the worse when Ari was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – an incurable, inflammatory bowel condition that inhibits nutrient absorption and is known to cause severe pain. “I felt like I was going to die,” he admits. “I was at the beginning of this amazing relationship with the woman who is my wife now, and I didn’t want to lose that.”
“I was taking all sorts of medicines that were messing with my hormones, and steroids that were just turning me into a maniac,” he says of the time, during which he took 16 pills per day. He was young, stressed, and desperate. The more he worried, the worse things became.
Ari didn’t know what to do, but he did know that he “just had to do something.”
He started to track and test himself, trying different approaches and meticulously measuring his own behavior. “I’m not a data scientist,” he says. “I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I figured that if I got enough data something was going to pop. Eventually, I found things that worked.”
What he discovered is that by lessening his stress, he could mitigate the impact of the disease. He started participating in yoga. He also took the time management skills he had picked up in his business career and refined them, developing a set of productivity techniques that today forms the core of The Art of Less Doing.
Beset by stress and sinking into desperation, Ari Meisel made lifestyle changes based on empirical analysis – and just a few months later, the worst was gone and he competed in his first triathlon.
“My doctor is amazing, and was amazing, and there’s just so much that can be done with the medicine that is there,” Ari makes clear. “But there seems to be a general lack of knowledge and understanding about nutrition in chronic illnesses.”
In Ari’s worldview, a key part of nutrition is reducing stress and boosting productivity. He revealed his top three productivity tips to Foundr.
“Everybody … should work with a virtual assistant at some point in their lives. Without fail,” Ari states. “Because you can do it very cheaply … and working with a virtual assistant is a learning process for everybody in terms of how to be more efficient or how to efficiently delegate a task.”
Before handing off tasks to another person, Ari argues, it is necessary to optimize them – reducing a task to as few steps as possible ensures that the virtual assistant can easily complete it. For those who are ready to get some help, he recommends Fancy Hands.
What’s his second tip? “Start using Evernote, and start overusing Evernote, because Evernote needs to become your external brain,” he says, referring to an innovative notetaking software product that gives individuals and teams a way to record and archive information in a variety of formats.
“If you have an idea in your head, you need to get it out of your head, and you have to get it into a place that is search-able and safe and archived,” Ari stresses, “because we waste way too of our resources trying to hold onto ideas and figure them out in the moment when it’s really not the right time and we don’t have the bandwidth for it.”
Ari’s third recommendation for Foundr readers centres around a common time-suck that poses issues for many businesspeople – email. He makes a commitment to himself to keep his emails to a minimum. “I have a ten email limit for my inbox. I will never have more than ten emails in my inbox,” he says.
One app that he recommends is FollowUp.cc, which enables users to schedule reminders and to-do lists right in their inbox. Ari explains: “FollowUp.cc is an email automation follow-up service that basically makes it, for any platform, that you can never worry about having to follow up on an email ever again.”
These tips barely scratch the surface of Ari’s approach – he delves into greater detail in his online course.
His knowledge doesn’t come from nowhere – from his first tech company at age twelve to his current productivity endeavours, Ari has been through a lot. Ari’s inspiring approach to dealing with Crohn’s disease put him on the path to live the life that he wants to live, and he aims to help others do the same.
Ari overcame great adversity, an experience that informs him when he urges others to ignore the naysayers and press on toward their dreams. Ever the optimist, he has one overriding message for aspiring entrepreneurs: “The impossible is possible.”
- The latest tools Ari uses to automate his life and business
- Life hacks that you need to apply straight away to save massive amounts of time
- How Ari Miesel overcame Crohns disease
- Success mindsets
- Entrepreneurial mindsets
Full Transcript of Podcast with Ari Meisel
Nathan: Hello, everyone. This is Nathan Chan from the “Foundr Podcast.” Thanks for joining me today. So today’s guest is Ari Meisel. And this guy is an absolute weapon. Like, it’s just crazy how insanely productive this guy is. If you want to talk about systems, this guy has some of the most next-level systems in place that I have ever heard of. And he’s a solopreneur. It’s unbelievable how much this guy is achieving in such little amount of time.
Very interesting character. He cured himself of Crohn’s disease. He’s really into his health and his fitness. Yeah, look, this is a really, really interesting episode. You’re guaranteed to learn a lot. Everything will be in the show notes. All the resources, the cool tools that we speak of. And to find those, simply visit www.foundrmag.com/podcast. That’s foundrmag.com/podcast. And that’s enough from me. Let’s jump in.
Today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Ari Meisel. He’s the Co-Founder at Less Doing, where he works on making every task in his life and business more efficient. He is self-tracking to overcome Crohn’s disease and has competed in Ironman France. Thank you for coming on board, Ari. It’s an absolute pleasure to have you, man.
Ari: Thank you for having me, Nathan.
Nathan: No worries. So would you be able to just give us a quick rundown on your life as an entrepreneur and your diagnosis with Crohn’s disease and your time management background, and how you got into essentially, yeah.
Ari: I became an entrepreneur when I was 12, and I started website design, and then I started a couple other tech companies before I got out of high school. After I went to college, I sort of accidentally started working in real estate development and got these old buildings in upstate New York that looked like…they were these cigar warehouses from the 1880s. And I had this vision that I could create lofts there. And basically, the deal was that anybody that worked on the project had to teach me their trade.
So I spent the next three years of my life learning and doing every construction trade there is, and I really learned not only the construction trade, but really hardcore project management and time management, because I was literally working on the job and dealing with paperwork, and dealing with possible buyers of these lofts, and politics and all sorts of local issues. So I was really playing both ends of that.
After that, I came back down to New York and I was working in real estate development in the Hamptons, the eastern end of Long Island.
Nathan: I see.
Ari: And along the way, the architect suggested that we might want to consider making the project green or sustainable. Which was, you know, seven years, it was sort of just becoming a thing. So I found out about LEED, the Leadership Energy in Environmental Design and became certified or an accredited professional. And then, I started to come across all these really cool building materials that were sort of tickling my technology antenna that I still had. So I started blogging about these really cool materials. And accidentally, again, became an expert in green building materials and wrote a book on it, and then started doing consulting. And basically for the last ten years, I’ve been a real estate developer focused on green building, and I’ve been a consultant.
But then, seven years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, which is a horribly painful chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. And it’s generally considered to be incurable, and they just throw whatever medicines they can at it to try to get something to work. I was pretty sick; I was taking about 16 pills a day and some really hardcore medications that were…that definitely did some good, but they had all sorts of horrible side effects. And after one particularly bad night in the hospital, I decided that I had to do something for myself.
So I went on this long process, a journey of self-tracking and self-exploration. And in three months, I was off my medicine, and then about three months after that, I competed in my first triathlon. Went on after that to do my TEDx talk on having to overcome this incurable illness and then a year after that went to Ironman France.
Basically, along the way, I realized that there was about 80% that I had figured out. I had figured out the supplements and the nutrition and the diet aspects…I’m sorry, the fitness. But I realized that there was still this large component that was related to stress. So not only was there stress in my life and my illness, but lots of people’s lives and their chronic conditions as well.
So I wanted to figure out a way to systematically help people deal with stress. And the best thing I could come up with was to help people save time. So the Art of Less Doing was borne of this desire to help people free up as much time as they could possibly free up in order to reclaim their own minds and do the things that they want to do. And that has since developed into a real framework for more productivity. So I basically have been helping people optimize, automate, and outsource everything in their lives in order to be more effective at everything. And I bring wellness into a component of that. So I’ve helped people with biohacking and overcoming chronic illness and dealing with sleep deficits and you name it. Just to make them, as well as their teams and their companies, as productive and effective as possible.
Nathan: Wow. You have a very interesting story. And what actually brought me to your story was…I’m actually doing your course on the Art of Less Doing.
Ari: Thank you.
Nathan: Yeah, it’s a really, really interesting course. I’m only about, I think, about an hour’s worth in. But anybody listening, I highly recommend that you check it out, and there will be a link to it in the magazine. Yeah, that’s originally how I found you, and then I read about your story and I watched your TED video, and I was like, “Wow, I’ve got to speak to this guy. He’s very interesting.”
Ari: Thank you very much.
Nathan: So I just wanted to first touch on…you talked about starting your three technology companies before high school. So how old were you? Like, 12, 13?
Ari: I started the first one, the website design company, when I was 12. And then at 16, I started a company called Menus-to-Go, which was sort of a precursor to Menu Pages. And then the year after that, I started a company called Tech, which was basically technology, installations, and consulting. So I was doing home theaters and computer systems, and all sorts of fine stuff; I was having a blast.
Nathan: Wow. Do you still run any of these companies, or are they still around?
Ari: So those three, I sort of folded up. I mean, I still do some of that stuff from time to time just for fun for different people. But it’s so easy to outsource a lot of that stuff as it is. But for instance, I mean, I just built this house and I did all the planning for all the technology and all the low-voltage stuff. So it’s still a part of me…
Nathan: That’s cool.
Ari: …but there’s a scalability issue there that I’ve sort of dealt with with the other companies. Not to mention the fact that in addition to running my two lives as a real estate developer and a productivity consultant, I’m also a husband and a father of three. So there is a limit at some point.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s the thing. As somebody that, you know, is a productivity guru, in my opinion, can you run us through a day? What does a productive day look like in your life, Ari? Can you tell us…give us some of your processes?
Ari: Sure. So my goal, with everything I do…and honestly, pretty much every decision I make is based on how much time it’s gonna require me to spend away from my kids and my wife. And you know, whether I make that into a healthy obsession or not, that’s for someone else to judge. But basically, if I’m deciding if I’m gonna take on a new client or I’m going to travel somewhere to do a speaking engagement, or I’m gonna do some other project, the very first thing that comes to my mind is “How much time do I have to spend away from the kids and Anna?”
And that’s been really good. That’s been a really good compass for me in terms of how I make my decisions. Because a lot of times, you don’t really know what your driver us, but I fortunately do, which is great. So a typical day is we’re usually up around 5:00, 5:30. And my son, Ben, who’s 19 months old, is very active and amazing and climbs everything and, you know, likes to do everything. And then we have two twins who are 13 weeks old. So basically, we sort of do this little juggling act where each one of us…you know, one of us has a baby and Ben, and then the other one has a baby. And then we sort of switch around for a couple hours.
And during that time in the morning, I’m actually getting a lot of work done because I’ve enabled myself to do almost everything I need to do from my iPhone. So I can check in with project managers on different projects. The headset for the iPhone is my best friend, basically. So I can have my hands free. I can talk to, you know, a contractor on a job site, and I honestly don’t care if they hear a kid in the background; it doesn’t make a difference to me or to them. So I can check in on those projects. I can deal with all my e-mails very easily. I can outsource things for the day; I can send things off to virtual assistants or whoever needs to deal with various things. And basically, the whole morning is spent with the family as well as sort of ping-ponging all of the other stuff for the day. And then around 10:00 or so, I’d say all three kids are taking their nap and the twins are taking their first nap for the day.
Ari: Then my wife and I will eat luch together, which is usually…you know, we eat pretty early because we get up early. So we always eat at home; we eat every meal at home.
Ari: We’ll have lunch together, then get right back to the grind. You know, the kids wake up and we’re with them, I’m on the phone, and then, you know, I’ll have my meetings that I have to have in the afternoon. So I try not to have more than three or four meetings a day, and that works very well. And then, again, it’s more kid time, more family time. A lot of people think this sounds weird, but I can do something on my iPhone for a couple minutes, and that doesn’t detract from me, you know, being at the park with my son, for instance, because I can get things done very quickly. And then at the end of the day, they’re, you know, going to sleep and we have dinner, and then, you know, work for a few more hours, and at some point, go to bed. It’s definitely crazy, but it’s also kind of a wild ride.
Nathan: Wow. And with the iPhone thing, one of the tools, you’ll be very happy that these two actually went to iPhone. And it’s called IFTTT, IF This Then That. So are you using that on the iPhone?
Ari: I’m funny like this. So I am one of the biggest and most vocal fans of IFTTT there is. And I actually have 77 currently active IFTTT recpies that are running, and that help me be more effective. And a lot of times, I’ll do something, and seven other things will happen because of IFTTT.
Nathan: Can we just give a quick rundown of IFTTT before we go into it?
Ari: Of course. So IFTTT stands for IF This Then That, and it’s just an automation platform that creates triggers and actions between various web services. So for instance, if I like this video on YouTube, then save it to Evernote. Or if I get a new e-mail in Gmail that matches this particular search stream, then put this notification on Twitter, or send me a text message, or whatever it might be. So there’s about 70 services that they use and you create these recipes. “If this happens here, do this here.”
So for example, one of my…what I would consider my jobs is I’ve become this sort of curator of content. And I provide people with what I think are the best stories of the week in terms of wellness and productivity. And I’m able to process about a thousand or more blog posts per day thanks to IFTTT because I’ll read through them in Feedly And if I save something in Feedly, then it automatically will put it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zootool, Delicious, and add it to Evernote and all sorts of other stuff happens. And based on that information, my virtual assistants are able to automatically create, without any input from me on that itself, they can create my Friday…you know, Interesthing Thing of the Week posts. So I’ve enabled a lot of these automations.
And as I said in the beginning, I help people optimize, automate, and outsource everything. And that order is very important. You have to optimize first and get it down to its bare bones, and then you can try to automate. And a lot of times, that’s it; you can finish with automation. But sometimes, you really do a need person and that’s where we get to outsourcing.
But to answer your question, I do not use the IFTTT iPhone app because of a couple reasons. One of which is part of less doing, which you’ll get to through the courses, my organization fundamental. And my concept for organization is really about setting limits. You set a limit and then you kind of work backwards to find the solutions to make that limit possible. And a lot of times, that limit has to be artificially restricted, right.
So in my case, I only allow myself to have enough iPhone apps to fill up four folders that are on my home screen. So I don’t have pages and pages and pages of apps. If I want to download a new app…
Ari: …I have to delete a different one.
Nathan: Wow. You’ve got a zen-like iPhone.
Ari: Exactly. And one of the ways that I’ve been able to achieve that is that a lot of these web services have very, very good web apps that simply require, you know, a mobile network. And IFTTT is one of those. So there are functionalities that will give you, but I don’t specifically need those, and so, I don’t have the app. I definitely downloaded it and tried it out, but I usually just access the web app.
Nathan: I see. That’s very interesting about the iPhone piece. Because yeah, I’m guilty of having…you know, as many apps as you can ever imagine on my iPhone. And people look at my iPhone and they’re just like, “Do you actually even use any of these or even some of them?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I try and use as many as I can” because, yeah, there’s so many cool things on your iPhone. Like apps, in terms of apps, right?
Ari: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the iPhone has been…you know, the thing that has made it so that I can do a lot of what I do. But I use every app that’s on my iPhone every day.
Nathan: I see. Let’s delve deep into the productivity piece because this is something…this is where, I think, in terms of value for the magazine, you can really, really add for our readers. So can you just give us your top three tips for productivity hacking?
Ari: Sure. So I think that everybody, regardless of what your situation is, or what you do, or if you’re a student, or it doesn’t matter, should work with a virtual assistant at some point in their lives without fail. Because you can do it very cheaply nowadays, too, thanks to globalization and all sorts of different services. And working with a virtual assistant is a learning process for everybody in terms of how to be more efficient, or how to efficiently delegate a task, rather. Because if you have to tell someone how to do something that you’ve never met, probably will never meet, and only may speak to once if it’s a dedicated or an on-demand service, that’s a really interesting parameter to put on yourself in terms of describing a possibly important task.
The second thing is start using Evernote and start over-using Evernote. Because Evernote needs to become your external brain. If you have an idea in your head, you need to get it out of your head. And you have to get it in a place that is searchable and safe and archived because we waste way too much of our resources trying to hold on to ideas and figure them out in a moment when it’s really not the right time and we don’t have the bandwidth for it. And honestly, you don’t have to know if it’s a relevant idea or if it will ever be relevant. The point is, you have the idea, get it on somewhere, and then you can recall it later if you need to.
And then the third thing is a service called followup.cc, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Followup.cc is an e-mail automation follow-up service that basically makes it from any platform that you can never have to worry about following up on an e-mail again. And the way it works, very simply, is from any platform, you send an e-mail to whoever you want. And then you can BCC, for instance, three days at followup.cc, or 2:00 p.m., at followup.cc, or one week at followup.cc. Any time period you want at followup.cc. And when that time comes, it will bring that e-mail back to your inbox with a snooze functionality. So you can decide at that moment, “Did I deal with this already? Do I need to put this off a little bit longer to a better time?” or what have you. But you never have to worry again, “Did I get back to that person?” “Did they get back to me?”
It’s one of the most stressful aspects of e-mail that keeps people filling up their inboxes.
Nathan: That’s a good point. And yeah, look, I have started trying followup.cc. I haven’t gotten into the habit of using it yet. Because you do mention it early on in your course. And I was wondering…actually, this is just for my own personal question. How do you recommend making sure that you’re always using followup.cc?
Ari: Well, just start using it. I mean, honestly, I’m a big fan of kind of moving the needle just a little bit. Basically, progress begets progress. So if you start to use it and you see how great it is, then you’ll use it more. But you can use it not only for following up with other people, but you can use it for reminders for yourself. You can also use it for teams that you check in with regularly. So if you BCC that address, then you get the reminder. If you CC it, then you both get the reminder, which is really useful in certain situations. And if you just send it right to followup.cc, you get a reminder at that time.
Nathan: I see. So tell us about your inbox? Is it always empty?
Ari: Yes. So basically, I have a ten e-mail limit for my inbox. I will never have…
Ari: …more than ten e-mails in my inbox. And that’s a rule that I have, and it’s taken me a while to get there and figure that out, but I did. And that’s through a process of, you know, different apps and different auto responders, and different filters, and virtual assistants, and it’s a complicated system. But yes, I never…I mean, basically, right now, I have two e-mails in my inbox. And if I wasn’t paying attention to this interview, you know, I could probably get them done in the next few minutes.
Nathan: Jesus Christ. So having all these systems in place, do you ever feel overwhelmed?
Ari: No. No, I never feel overwhelmed, ever. And the reason is, I can’t. Having had a chronic illness that was definitely almost directly related to stress, I cannot allow myself to feel that feeling. So I will do whatever I can to not feel that. And when you have three kids running around, or three kids, you don’t get the opportunity, honestly. You don’t have a…you know, the minute you start to feel tired, or you feel like, you know, whatever, somebody needs something. And honestly, it’s been a good thing. It keeps me…yeah, it seems silly to say that because I’m 30 years old, but I feel like it keeps me young.
Nathan: Some of these systems and the automation that you have in your life is so impressive, man. And I, me, myself, personally, I’m going to…yeah, I’m gonna finish off your course because, you know, I paid for it. And not only that, but I think there’s a lot of value in automating and doing stuff you’re doing. It’s amazing how much you’re achieving. It’s fascinating, it’s fascinating stuff.
So let’s switch gears and talk about the Crohn’s disease. So how long ago were you diagnosed with this, and how long did you suffer with it? Because it’s considered an incurable disease, and one of my good friends, Lucy, that I work with, I told her about your story, and she actually reached out to you and she sent you an e-mail and stuff like that because she suffers from Crohn’s disease as well.
Ari: Did I get back to her? Because I don’t remember that.
Nathan: You did. You did, actually, yeah.
Ari: Oh, good. Okay.
Nathan: And yeah, she was really happy to hear from you, and yeah, we were both talking about you the other day. And it sounds like a very, very tough thing to handle. And I don’t know how long, personally, Lucy has had it, but she has to go to the hospital quite often and do all sorts of things to manage it. And when you were diagnosed and when you were suffering from it, did you just straight away go, “Okay, well…” because you would have done a lot of testing and a lot of measuring, and learning. When you were diagnosed, one, how long did it take you to overcome with it? And second, during that period, how did you cope? I’d like to know that, because I just know it would be very, very frustrating.
Ari: Yeah. So I was diagnosed seven years ago, I was 23 years old. One of the biggest issues with Crohn’s is that it’s a young person’s disease, and in retrospect, I’ve been having problems since I was 14. It’s also a very embarrassing disease, because you’re talking about, like, having to go to the bathroom a lot more than you should and, you know, losing weight because you can’t absorb nutrients. You know, it’s very tough. It’s very, very, very tough, and mentally, it’s very tough.
Nathan: Yeah, I know.
Ari: So you don’t know what to do. And every time you go to the doctor, they’re telling you have to take more medicine and more medicine. And you just say, “Okay,” because, you know, you’re feel like you’re gonna die and you’re young, and you just don’t know what to do.
But eventually, I hit this precipice where it was like, “I’m gonna die, and I have to do something.” So I had had all this data. You know, I had been getting blood tests, like, every five weeks. And I started to analyze the data a little bit and just see…I didn’t know what I was thinking; I just thought maybe I’d see if there was some correlation with things.
So I started to notice some patterns, and then I started to experiment with certain supplements and see how those changed things, and I mapped those values. But then I went a little nuts and I started testing and tracking everything. You know, from the basic stuff like body fat and weight, to blood testing, to saliva, to semen analysis, like, you name it, if the tests insist that I would do it.
Ari: So just because…I’m not a data scientist and I didn’t know what I was looking for. But I figured if I got enough data, something was gonna pop. And eventually, I found things that worked, and I started to feel better. And I started to, you know, figure out how to manage stress with less doing, and I was doing yoga. And basically just tracking everything and just trying to see what made that difference.
So fortunately, I’ve been able to boil that down and replicated it in almost a dozen people at this point.
Nathan: Wow. It’s a very, very fascinating story, man. And I know that at an age of 23, what I really want to understand having the doctor telling you that this is an incurable disease, how did you just, I guess, say, “I’m gonna do something about this? Yes, this is what I have. But I want to change things.” How did you know that things were going to get better? That’s what I really want to understand. Because for me, personally, if I was told something like that, I don’t know…I would deal with it, but you challenge the status quo, if you know what I mean. So I wanted to really understand what triggered you to want to…is it something that you’ve always had, or you’ve been brought up naturally and you don’t accept the status quo? Or is just like…did you do some research and you found some research saying that “These are things that you can do to overcome this”? Or what was it?
Ari: I don’t really now. I think that it was like… I really felt that I was gonna die. I was at the beginning of this really amazing relationship with the woman who’s my wife now, and I didn’t want to lose that. And I just…I just had to do something. So it was like it couldn’t get worse, basically. And yes, every time I went to the doctor and I was told I had to take more medicine, I would get pretty depressed. I was taking, you know, all sorts of medicines that were messing with my hormones and steroids, and they were just making me into a maniac.
So it’s hard to even know if what you’re feeling is real to begin with. So I just started trying things, and that was it. I just started trying things because I figured I had nothing to lose, and it was a balancing act between the side effects that I was getting from the medicine, and the new things that I was trying, and whether or not they worked or not. And I want to make it very clear that I’m not against the medical establishment at all. My doctor is amazing and was amazing, and you know, there’s just so much that can be done with the medicine that is there now, and the fact that Crohn’s is not particularly well understood.
But there seems to be sort of a general lack of knowledge and understanding about nutrition in chronic illnesses. Once you start digging, it’s like a very deep rabbit hole, you know? As soon as you start looking for something, especially on the internet, you start to find all sorts of people who have done things and figured out things. And you know, when you’re desperate enough, they all sort of make sense. Fortunately, in this case, I was able to discern, you know, the good from the bad, because there is some pretty hokey treatments out there for things like Crohn’s disease.
Nathan: I can imagine. I can imagine. You know, people would probably be trying to sell you snake oil.
Ari: Yes, of course. And you know what I’d say honestly, now that I’m sort of clarifying this since you asked me, I don’t think that I ever was intending to cure myself. I think I was just trying to feel better. And get some control.
Nathan: Ah, I see. You mentioned briefly that you were helping others. So you’ve had people reach out to you and you’ve actually been able to help others with the illness?
Ari: Oh, yeah. Part of Less Doing is that I do a lot of one-on-one coaching with people. And either they’ll come to me with a chronic illness or something that we need to help fix, or they’ll come to me with a productivity issue. But then, they’re sort of being held back by something that’s going on with them physically. So they really do go hand in hand. Yeah, I’ve replicated these results now with some pretty serious Crohn’s cases, and other illnesses, actually, because Crohn’s is an inflammatory condition, you know? So there’s other illnesses that have to do with inflammation. And I have helped people with things like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory conditions.
Nathan: Wow. So you’re like the modern-day doctor?
Ari: Well, yeah. I try. I try.
Nathan: That must feel amazing, to be able to help people overcome these kinds of things, and you would get to see the end product, like, you know, how they are with their lives. And being, literally, be able to make a massive impact on someone’s life. That must feel really good, right?
Ari: It does feel very good. You know, it’s funny; as someone who has been building green, sustainable real estate for years now and trying to make the world a better place in the face of climate change, this is the first time where I’ve ever felt like I was helping people.
Nathan: Yeah. No, and just your take on that, for the magazine, I interviewed Srinivas Rao from BlogCastFM. And he’s interviewed over 400-plus, you know, entrepreneurs inspiring people. And I said to him, “Out of all these people, what’s a common denominator? What is something that you see that is prevalent in absolutely every single one of them that, you know, has taken them to where they are in their life today and to achieve the things…whatever they have achieved, whatever level?” And he said to me, “If I were to nail it down to one thing, it would be that every single one of those people, they do have the belief that they do want to change the world in some way, shape, or form. They want to make the world a better place.”
And I see those commonalities when I speak to people. I can see it in you and you even described it just then, right?
Ari: Yeah, absolutely.
Nathan: That’s really cool, man. So let’s switch gears and talk about the importance of measuring. Because you did it with your health, and measuring not only processes for your business and testing and tracking is extremely important, and I’m just leading “The Lean Startup” at the moment…I just finished it yesterday. And they talk about the importance of measuring and tracking within your business. I just wanted to hear your take on that.
Ari: Of course. I mean, if you can measure something, you can optimize it, basically. And there’s all these things going on all the time, fortunately, that people are blissfully unaware of. And every one of those is an opportunity to do it better. So yes, and the thing is, of course you can do it in business; you can track sales, you can track calls, and you can do A/B testing of things. But you can also look at the people. You know, you can look at what makes people more productive. And is it having, you know, healthy foods available for people, or requiring people to take breaks, or letting people work from home? If you focus on making a more productive team, the results really come back to you in multiples.
Nathan: Yeah, thank you for that. Because yeah, it’s something that I am starting to learn personally firsthand. And as, you know, this is…I’m a fairly junior entrepreneur, and a lot of people listening and reading the magazine either are just starting a business or looking to start a business, or getting involved in entrepreneurship. I think testing and tracking and measuring and learning, it’s very, very important, because you can learn faster.
Ari: Yes, of course.
Nathan: I just also wanted to touch on…we’ll switch back to the Crohn’s disease. And after overcoming an incurable disease, I just wanted to know, does this make you feel this from anything else that comes your way, health, personal, business challenges? Does that faze you anymore? Do you feel like you can achieve anything? Does any challenge ever feel or seem impossible to you now?
Ari: No, absolutely…you hit it on the head. It’s basically made it, so…I’ve taken “Don’t sweat the small stuff” to the absolute extreme. And I used to be like a stress ball. But now, I would say I’m one of the more mellow people that I know. Nothing bothers me like that anymore and…you know, medical things or business things, because I know that by getting nervous about it or worried about it, I know at this point that that’s just wasting time that I could be using to figure out a solution that is there.
Nathan: I can imagine; it’s a great outlook to have. And it’s not something that you can just turn on. And when you have that, though, it’s very powerful.
Ari: It’s been my sort of guiding light.
Nathan: Yeah, no, for sure. Would you be able to give us some more tools that you recommend? I know you have a few; we’ve talked about followup.cc, IFTTT. We’ve talked about also Evernote, which is something that everybody should use. When you mentioned Evernote, it reinforced my realize for the need of having an external brand.
Now using Evernote, but to describe the external brand piece, it makes sense. And I said to others; other entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs and friends I met, you know, “Do you use Evernote? You know, anything that goes through your mind, you just need to vomit it out onto something.” Because like you said, I think it was one or two out of those ten things that you put in there, you actually use; the rest of it is rubbish. But can we talk about some other tools that you would recommend? Or would you like to keep it nice and simple?
Ari: Well, yeah, there is just one more, which I did touch on before, which is the virtual assistant.
Nathan: Yes, the virtual assistant.
Ari: So in America, it’s…well, actually, I recommend Fancy Hands. Most people on Fancy Hands can be used from anywhere in the world. So I would highly recommend everybody try out Fancy Hands, and I have that linked all over my site because I use them all the time.
Nathan: Okay. That will be in the magazine. Now, I wanted to ask you, actually, about this…you raised a good point, thank you for that. I looked into Fancy Hands, and it’s like a paid service, right? Do you find it difficult to train out multiple different virtual assistants, or do you have assigned to just one?
Ari: No. So actually, I love having multiple because if you can describe a process well, then anybody should be able to do it. So I have this concept called “Creating the Manual of You,” which is basically that you go through all these processes on a daily basis or weekly basis, it doesn’t matter. And they’re regular processes. But you just do them because they’re in your head and you know how to do them.
If you actually stop and think about all the steps that it requires for someone else to do that, it’s really interesting what happens. So if it’s something as simple as “Pay this bill,” you know? So I could say to somebody “Pay this bill,” and they’d have no idea what I was talking about, even though I know that I have to just go to my banking website and, you know, pull it up and pay them.
So the first time I looked at that process, it was 27 steps. And after going through it and optimizing it, I got it down to 22. And then after sending it to a virtual assistant, I got it down to 18. And then I automated some stuff, and then I got it back and forth to another virtual assistant. And eventually, now, that process is nine steps. And it’s so perfect and so clear cut that anybody without any previous knowledge or training can do that task, and I’ve tested this several hundred times at this point.
So if you can describe your tasks well, which is really the goal, then anybody should be able to do them. And with a service like Fancy Hands where there are literally thousands of assistants at your service, you can get more tasks done during more hours of the day and quicker.
Nathan: Wow, that’s awesome. Yeah, that’s a good point that you make about Fancy Hands that you could test your tasks. And yeah, anybody should be able to pick them up if they’re, you know, as simple as possible.
Nathan: Awesome. Okay. Well, look, we have to look at wrapping things up, man. And I just wanted to ask you one question that I asked everybody that I interviewed for the magazine, and that was pretty much the only words of wisdom that you would like to pass on or finish up on in final for everyone that’s listening to this call?
Ari: I would basically say that the impossible is possible. And if somebody tells you that you can’t do something, it’s the first thing that you should try to figure out if it’s actually possible to do it without abandoning it. Whether that’s starting a business when you’re young or moving to a new place, or overcoming an illness, never accept impossible as the first step.
Nathan: Wow. That’s awesome, man. Nice and simple, straight to the point, and we really touched on that, the impossibility factor, and how you don’t see anything as, you know, unachievable. So look, I just wanted to say, it’s been an absolute blast speaking with you, man. Lot of fun, lot of fun. I learned a lot and I think people listening will learn a lot, especially about the tools that you use and the way that you approach life. So yeah, thank you for your time, man. I really appreciate it.
Ari: Thank you so much for having me on.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Are Meisel
- Learn more from Ari Meisel on his website.
- Follow Ari Meisel on Twitter.
- Checkout Ari Meisel’s Books.